There’s a good indpendent bookstore, Words, only a few towns away from me and it’s worth a visit each time I’m in the area. It’s near a couple of great restaurants so following brunch with book browsing just seems right. I follow the store on Facebook, because they often post about book events they are hosting and they also share information about goings-on in Maplewood.
Which is how I found out this weekend about Maplewoodstock, an annual event with live music, food vendors, arts and crafts, and strategically-placed ice cream trucks and port-a-johns. I convinced the family that this would be an ideal place to find lunch, so the four of us packed up and headed to the train station. Parking in Maplewood is a challenge even without the presence of a large-scale festival, so we decided we’d prefer a 19 minute air conditioned train ride to trolling around residential areas for distant parking.
Sitting right in front of me and my pink child was a young fellow reading a small paperback. I snuck a quick photo:
It’s hard to tell from the photo above, but he was reading Love, by Leo Buscaglia. The book didn’t look like it was new, and the slightly yellowed pages had passages underlined with green pen. Shortly before he reached his stop, he closed the book, and then looked at the cover for a moment, before he packed it away. Then he went on his way.
I don’t know anything about Buscaglia, but the name was familiar to me from my high school days when I worked at — where else — my local library. Some research revealed that Buscaglia was a teacher at the Department of Special Education at the University of Southern California when the suicide of a student inspired him to offer a class called Love 1A. More information about his background and influence is available on his this website, but briefly stated, the class, and the response to it and its eventual televising on PBS led to Buscaglia becoming known as an motivational speaker who offered hugs after his lectures to anybody who wanted one. It also led to his first book, the aforementioned Love. He died in 1998.
Having not read anything by Buscaglia, I took the shortcut of googling his name along with “quotes.” Prepare yourself for some frame-worthy ones:
Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong.
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.
This is good stuff. In fact, it’s so good, I feel like I’ve heard versions of each of these statements many times before, and likely we all have: they are life lessons that we repeat to ourselves during tough patches, and repeat to our children when they come home after a tough day at school. It seems like a lot of the greatest advice and best quotables are in response to the negative elements of our lives. But I guess that’s just evidence of the basic goodness of humans, that even in dark hours we are able to respond with something positive. And this was precisely how Buscaglia responded after his student’s suicide.
Speaking of children, and love, our trip to Maplewood included a quick side trip to Words, the bookstore that inspired the trip in the first place. The boys (my husband and our 9-year old) were left to their own devices for a brief period of time and emerged with a new Star Wars-related book containing storyboards for the movies. As you can see, it kept them quite occupied during the ride home on the train:
Contrary to popular opinion in our house, I have seen the Star Wars movies — the ones worth seeing, anyway — and of course the movies repeat the stories as old as time: love, war, death, good evil. A few paragraphs ago I mentioned that Buscaglia’s quotes sounded familiar, but that I’d heard them in other contexts. And maybe one of those contexts was the Star Wars franchise. Throw the syntax out of whack on any of those quotes and you have something that Yoda easily could have come up with.
I’m going to go so far as to say that each ofthe quotes above from the love-inspired Buscaglia could be framed along with a scene from one of the Star Wars movies. Let’s give it a try:
I might get some push back for having made any reference to the most loathed SW character, Jar Jar Binks, but if I recall he was one of the most loving characters in the Star Wars franchise, full of acceptance of others. Perhaps at least Leo Buscaglia would have approved.